Most people dream of achieving six-pack abs.
Unfortunately, genetics crush these dreams for millions of people.
It turns out, you’re born with a specific number of muscle sections in the abdominal area. This determines whether you can get a 4-pack, 6-pack, 8-pack, or even 10-pack abs.
So, if you’re stuck with four of these abdominal muscle sections, no amount of time in the gym will help you get a six-pack.
On the bright side, you can still get killer abs.
You just need to get lean, build muscle, and then tone your midsection. No matter your genetics, you still have hope.
Four pack abs example
Here’s an example of 4-pack abs:
Six pack abs example
Here’s an example of 6-pack abs:
Eight pack abs example
Here’s an example of 8-pack abs:
What Determines the Number of Ab Muscles? (Anatomy of Your Abdominal Muscles)
Technically, everyone has two muscles that run up and down the abdominal area.
The rectus abdominis is the pair of muscles that most people recognize as the “abs.” Connective tissue creates ridges across these muscles, resulting in the individual “ab sections.”
When you contract your abs, the ridges become more defined.
As mentioned, genetics determines the number of ridges. You may have the ability to achieve 6-pack or 8-pack abs. Even if you only have a 4-pack or no-pack, you can still get a washboard stomach.
Luckily, about 60% of people have the potential for 6-pack abs.
Just under 15% can get 4-pack abs and close to 22% can get an 8-pack.
Is it possible to get 10-pack abs? Yes, but it’s extremely rare.
In fact, autopsies have found individuals with up to six individual intersections on the rectus abdominis, creating the appearance of a 12-pack.
So, genetics determine the number of “ab muscles,” but it’s up to you to reveal them.
How Do You Get 6 Pack Abs (i.e., Reveal More Defined Abs)?
No amount of exercise or dieting will change genetics. If you’re born with three intersections on the rectus abdominis, you have the potential to develop a defined six-pack.
To start uncovering the ab muscles, you’ll likely need to:
- Burn fat
- Build muscle
- Tone your core
Getting rock hard abs isn’t rocket science. As with any part of your body, you need to reduce fat and build muscle to achieve a toned look.
How Long Does It Take to Get 6 Pack Abs?
The amount of time it takes to reveal 6-pack abs depends on the amount of fat you need to lose.
You can’t target specific areas of the body for fat loss. When you consume fewer calories compared to what your body needs to make it through the day, you burn fat.
Unfortunately, the areas where you store the most fat are the last areas to lose it.
If you tend to store fat around your midsection, it’ll be the last place that you shed the fat.
To get an idea of how long it’ll take for you to achieve ripped abdominal muscles, estimate the amount of weight you need to lose to reach your ideal body fat percentage.
If you need to drop 15 pounds, it may take about 15 weeks to reach your goal. Keep working out during that period and by the time you lose enough weight, your muscles should also be more toned.
Can Women Get Six-Pack Abs?
Yes, men and women have the same set of abdominal muscles. No matter if you’re a man or a woman, the intersections along the front of the rectus abdominis determine the size of your pack.
As with men, most women have three ridges, allowing for a six-pack.
Eliminate Fat Around Your Midsection
The first step to getting a flatter stomach is to get rid of the fat.
If you have a layer of fat across your midsection, you’ll never see the muscles underneath.
To get lean, limit your daily caloric intake. Eating at a calorie deficit allows your body to use more stored fat for energy.
How much should you eat?
Many factors determine the recommended number of calories you should consume each day, but the average is 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men.
To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories. If you take away 500 calories per day, you can lose one pound per week.
Working out also helps you burn calories, but you don’t need to go overboard.
If you work out too much, your body may start to use muscle tissue for energy, leading to muscle loss. Stick to a light workout routine, with a little bit of cardio and some strength training to help maintain muscle mass.
Build More Core Strength for Defined Abs
The next step in getting defined abs is building more muscle. When you cut the fat from your body, you’ll either have flat abs or the first signs of your six-pack.
To make the muscle more noticeable, you need to increase its size through a process called muscle hypertrophy.
When you add resistance and weight to your muscles, you cause small tears in the muscle fibers. Your body then fuses the fibers together to repair them, which also increases the size and mass of the muscles.
If you focus on a total body workout, you’ll naturally start to develop all your major muscle groups. Eventually, you’ll notice more defined abs.
However, focusing on your core now speeds up the process of developing killer abs.
Build your core strength with exercises that target the abdominal muscles, such as crunches, planks, and squats.
Start Toning Other Abdominal Muscles
If you really want your 6-pack abs to stand out, don’t forget about the other ab muscles.
The rectus abdominis is the set of muscles that people tend to focus on. It helps support the spine when you flex forward.
It’s possible to get 6-pack or 8-pack abs and still have a thick belly. If your midsection isn’t flat, you may need to work the transverse abdominis.
The transverse abdominis wraps around the belly and spine, providing support as you pivot at the waist. Working this muscle should help tighten your tummy.
The next set of muscles includes internal obliques and external obliques.
The internal obliques help support you as you bend from side to side. Tightening these muscles helps keep your waist slimmer and improves your posture.
As with the rectus abdominis, the external obliques should become visible as you burn fat. Toning the external obliques helps compliment your six-pack.
What Are the Best Exercises for Toned Abs?
As mentioned, if you stick with total body workouts, you’ll eventually start to tone your abdominal muscles.
If you simply can’t wait to show off ripped abs, focus on exercises that work the four main sets of muscles we just discussed:
- Rectus abdominis
- Transverse abdominis
- Internal obliques
- External obliques
The best exercises for abs move the muscles in your legs, lower abdomen, and hip flexors. Examples include:
- Mountain climber
- Lying leg raise
- Dead bug
- Reverse crunch
How much exercise do you need for firmer abs? For starters, try to perform 2 sets of 20 repetitions of each exercise, even if you include different exercises.
You should also try to include some cardiovascular exercise in your routine.
While some fitness experts say cardio doesn’t matter for muscle development, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) helps build muscle and blast fat.
What Are the Benefits of a 4, 6, 8, 10, or 12-Pack Abs?
Does having a 12-pack make you stronger compared to someone with a 4-pack? The number of “packs” has no impact on your health, strength, or fitness.
It’s just a superficial difference.
Getting rid of fat and building more muscle provides many health benefits, but the six-pack itself doesn’t.
In fact, having a six-pack doesn’t offer any real health benefits.
The only advantage of having a six-pack is getting to show it off. It also indicates that you’re leading a healthy lifestyle.
If you have a six-pack, you likely have well-defined muscles in other areas of your body, including your core.
With a stronger core, you have more support for your back, reducing the risk of back injuries and strains. Less belly fat also limits your risk of cardiovascular disease.
However, the six-pack is just an aesthetic preference, as with the difference between the six-pack and the eight-pack.
You need to keep in mind that some people aren’t born with the potential to achieve a six-pack. Additionally, your genetics may predispose you to store fat in the midsection, making it even harder to get a washboard stomach.
What Are the Disadvantages of 6 Pack Abs?
Chasing an almost impossible goal may also lead some people to lose too much weight. There’s no apparent benefit to maintaining the low body fat percentage needed to display toned ab muscles.
Here are some of the disadvantages of trying to get 6-pack abs:
- Potential waste of time
- You may ignore other muscles
- Risk of losing too much body fat
If you tend to store most of your fat in the midsection, you may never get a six-pack. All the hard work could be for nothing, resulting in a lot of wasted time at the gym.
You’ll also likely need to restrict your diet in the process. In the end, you’ll have spent most of your time counting calories and performing crunches and still not have the results you want.
In your pursuit of the perfect abs, you may also ignore other muscle groups. While it helps to focus on the abs to start toning the abdominal muscles, you also need to work on the rest of your body.
In fact, building more overall muscle mass should help you with your goal of achieving a flatter stomach.
The extra muscle requires more calories, helping you slim down and stay slim without needing to cut more calories from your diet.
Why is less fat bad? Some of the health risks associated with low body fat include:
- Fatigue and less energy
- Feeling cold all the time
- Increased appetite
- Longer muscle recovery
- Less testosterone
Those are just a few of the problems with not keeping enough fat on your body.
Basically, you’ll start to shiver and lack the energy to work out. Your muscles will also start to wither, as you can’t muster the strength to lift weights and your testosterone levels drop.
To avoid lowering your body fat percentage to unsafe levels, start tracking your body fat.
You can use an online calculator to estimate your body fat. You just need to measure a few body parts and enter the measurements into a website, but the results aren’t the most accurate.
For greater accuracy, buy a caliper and measure your body fat at home. You just pinch the fat with the calipers in a few key areas.
If your body fat percentage starts to reach the low end of the safe range, stop eating at a calorie deficit and focus on your muscle development.
How Can You Get Six Pack Abs?
If you want to avoid the disadvantages discussed, but still want to get ripped abs, you should plan your fitness and nutrition.
You want to avoid lowering your body fat too much, which increases the risk of a variety of health issues.
A healthy range is 21% to 24% body fat for women and 14% to 17% for men. Unfortunately, you may not see your abs at those levels.
The lowest, safe range is 10% to 13% for women and 2% to 5% for men.
Not Everyone Gets a Six Pack: Some Final Things to Consider
In the end, there’s nothing you can do to develop six-pack abs if you weren’t born with three ridges on your rectus abdominis muscles.
You’re born with the potential to develop a 4-pack, 6-pack, 8-pack, or 10-pack. A few unique individuals may even achieve a 12-pack.
If you want to show off the pack on your stomach, you’ll first need to get rid of excess fat. Limit your calories and work the tummy to start lowering your body fat percentage.
After you shed the weight, shed the muscles underneath.
Within a few months, you should know what type of abdominal muscles you had hiding in your midsection.
If you’re like 60% of the population, you’ll find 6-pack abs.
(One more thing, if you’re ready to start working towards creating 6-pack abs immediately, we recommend taking this survey to determine which workout regimen is right for your specific needs. If you complete the survey, you will also receive a $20 discount off the program of your choice.)